I work out of the garage in my home, so when the winter months come along, I find other projects to work on. That’s not to say I haven’t refinished furniture in winter, but generally it’s a slow time of year. I hate being idle, so that’s when I work on my paintings. Here’s a few pictures of recent works.
This project was one that comes my way all too often, and that’s fixing someone else’s mistakes. My clients hired a interior decorator when they first moved into their new home, and she suggested that their breakfast nook table should be refinished to better fit their new décor. The table and chair were high quality, and it made sense to refinish the set. The original finish was a deep hunter green with wood stained seats and table top. They were suppose to be changed to a satin black, with the chair seats and table top to remain a wood stain. The problem arose when she recommended someone who took shortcuts, didn’t know what they were doing, and totally overcharged. Here’s some photo’s of what I first saw.
I could literally remove the finish with my finger nail, and to top it off, they used a semi-gloss polyurethane on the seats of the chairs, but left the table in a satin finish. My clients said that initially the set looked fine, but within a few months the finish started to chip and peel. They contacted the decorator, and the person who refinished the set, but they made no attempt to rectify the problem. The paint finish only continued to deteriorate. This type of situation makes me so mad, and as I said, happens all too often. Had the person refinishing the set taken the proper steps this never would’ve happened. Even if they didn’t strip the furniture down to bare wood, they should have at least used TSP (Tri-sodium Phosphate) to remove any oily buildup, then painted with primer, and a high quality latex paint. I wouldn’t do it this way, but at least the finished product would’ve lasted more than a few months.
I knew to repair this mess the proper way, I was going to have to strip the chairs and table down to the bare wood. Out came the chemical gloves, and quite a bit of Citristrip.
If you decide to use Citristrip for your next project, make sure you put it on thick and let it sit on the piece to do it’s work (don’t rush the process, patience, follow the directions.) Once the paint is all nice and bubbly, and with chemical gloves on, use a medium grit steel wool to remove the paint. You’ll go through quite a bit of steel wool for a project of this size (I went through about 5-6 packs.) On flat surfaces you can use a plastic scraper, but I personally prefer steel wool, scrapers of any kind can cause gouges in the wood because any type of wood stripper will raise the grain of the wood. Once you have the paint off, then you must deactivate the paint stripper. You can use a paint stripper wash, or Odorless Mineral Spirits with a stripping pad. I use Odorless Mineral Spirits. Now comes another have patience moment, and this is important…let the surface completely dry. A few days if working in high humidity. Next step, Hand Sanding. This can be tedious work, but throw on some good music, and have at it. This really is an important step because you want to make sure all of the old finish is off, and out of all the little nook and crannies. If you’re going to all this work, you don’t want one tiny area to fail, and have to refinish it again. I start with a 150 grit sandpaper, then move up to a 220, and finish with 320. You don’t have to use the 320 grit, but I like to use it on horizontal surfaces, such as table tops and chair seats. Make sure to tack cloth every piece to remove all the dust, you don’t want any grit left on the pieces when you start the finishing process. Here’s some photo’s of the sanded pieces.
Heading into the final stages! I covered up the seats of the chairs and table top with rosin paper, and FrogTape. Taping around the spindles can be a pain, but if you go to Michael’s or Hobby Lobby, and go to their paper craft departments, you can buy different sizes of hole punches. Find the sizes you’ll need for your spindles. Punch out a larger circle of rosin paper, and then punch out the center of that with a whole punch the size of the spindle, and then tape it down. I was going to do a video to show how to do this, but was on schedule to finish the project, and unfortunately didn’t have time. I promise to load a how-to-do video of the process very soon.
Once everything was covered that wasn’t getting painted, it was time to paint. I used a compressor and spray gun to do the black paint, and used a high quality latex paint/primer in a flat finish. The reason for the flat finish is because I was going to use a satin polyurethane on all the pieces to protect the surfaces. If I used a satin finish paint there would’ve been a difference in the sheen of black paint to the stained seats and table top. If you’re using a compressor and spray gun, you’ll have to thin the paint, and there are a ton of YouTube videos out there to view, or you can check out www.hunker.com (search: How to Thin Latex Paint.) If you don’t have a compressor and spray gun, you can use a brush. A few recommendations for a better finish is to always use a high quality brush for latex paint (I like Purdy brush) and use an extender/leveler additive (XIM is great). The extender/leveler will help eliminate brush marks, and give a nice smooth finish.
When the paint was completely dry, I then stained the chair seats and table top. I used a combinations of stains to get the color needed on this project. On this one it was a combination of Minwax oil based gunstock and red oak. When I finished staining the pieces, I let them dry for about 2 days before doing the polyurethane. Photo’s below are before the poly went on.
Now it was time to polyurethane the entire set. I use a water based poly thinned down, and again used the compressor and spray gun. You can use a brush to do this, but again, I would add the extender/leveler to the poly to eliminate brush marks. I sprayed three coats of poly on the set, letting each coat dry thoroughly, then sanding lightly with a 320 grit sandpaper, and then tack cloth to remove dust. These last photo’s are of the finished pieces.
My clients were pleased with the finished product, and I wish them many years of good use from their dining set.
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave me a message.
This is the post excerpt.
My name is Kelli Fox-Kieffer, and I am the owner/designer of Aunt Ruh’s Attic LLC. I am an Interior Designer who decided to leave the residential design industry to begin a new business refinishing, building, reclaiming, and repurposing furniture. It’s been quite the journey over the last 5 years.
It all began while working with my interior design clients, who wanted to save and incorporate their heirloom furniture pieces, but had no idea of how to accomplish it. You know, those pieces of furniture that you inherited from your parents and grandparents, the ones relegated to the attic, the basement or a spare bedroom. It’s the piece of furniture you can’t get rid of for sentimental reasons, but you can’t visualize it being usable in any room of your home. It’s also the piece of furniture that was constructed by a craftsperson and built to last…unlike many furniture pieces today.
Generally, the furniture required a simple repair and refinishing, but other times, the furniture required multiple processes of removing layers of old paint, repairing major damage, or restructuring a piece to fit into the modern home esthetic. As an Interior Designer, I studied furniture construction, and the periods in which they were built. I also knew what pieces could be refinished or repurposed, and the ones that should be left as is because of the value they held. I knew how to paint strip and/or refinish furniture from helping my mother, who learned from her uncles (you can read about them in the about section of the blog.) What I didn’t know, and had to learn, was how to construct original pieces, repair major damage to existing pieces, and how to deconstruct and reconstruct furniture. That’s where spending time apprenticing with a master cabinetmaker/furniture maker came in very handy when going full-time with the business.
Starting Aunt Ruh’s Attic was truly a leap of faith moment in my life. I loved the creativity of it, the problem solving, even the saw dust and dirt, but could it succeed as full-time business? I’m happy to say…so far, so good. I get to work from home (in the shop in our garage) listen to great music (when not using power tools) work with fantastic clients, and still earn a living doing so. No complaints here.
In the upcoming weeks, I’ll be posting photos and videos of my work for you to see. Hopefully, it will give you some ideas of how to save those relegated pieces of furniture. I’ll also be doing tutorials of how to refinish furniture, paint strip furniture, repair, and some paint techniques I’ve discovered along the way. Keep an eye out for those.
Thank you for taking the time to read my first post.